NHL On NBCSN: Blues look to snap five-game losing streak against Avalanche


Just after the St. Louis Blues fired coach Ken Hitchcock and turned the bench over to Mike Yeo the team went on a 7-1-0 run that made it look like their season was turning around. Maybe the coaching change was the spark the team needed to get back on track and play up to the level we have seen from the Blues in recent seasons.

Then again, maybe not.

Since that 7-1-0 stretch the Blues have lost five games in a row and now find themselves one point out of a playoff spot behind the Los Angeles Kings (with two games in hand).

They look to snap that losing streak on Sunday night when they visit the Colorado Avalanche on NBCSN. Puck drop is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET and you can see all of the action on NBCSN or on our Live Stream.

The good news for the Blues is they are certainly getting the right matchup on Sunday night when it comes to snapping a losing streak. Not only are the Avalanche the worst team in the NHL this season by a substantial margin, they have won just eight of their past 45 games (8-34-3), are on track finish with the worst point total since the league went to the three-point game format in 2005-06 (yes, even worse than the 2013-14 and 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres) and also just played on Saturday night while the Blues had the night off. It was a particularly ugly showing for the Avalanche in that game, too.

In other words, there is no excuse for the Blues, a desperate team that had the night off on Saturday, to not come out of this game with two points.

The biggest problem for the Blues during this recent losing streak has been an offense that has dried up, scoring just six goals (and never more than two in a single game) during that stretch, while no individual player has more than one goal or two total points.

Losing Kevin Shattenkirk, their best offensive defenseman and still second leading scorer, during that stretch to a trade certainly has not helped matters.

Yeo knows this is the type of moment that can make-or-break the Blues season.

“This is new for me, I’m still learning the group, still learning how we deal with adversity. We went on a bit of a run, so you see how the group deals with that, and now we’re seeing how they deal with the opposite end of things,” Yeo said, via the St. Louis Post Dispatch on Saturday.

“It’s obviously an area that we have to improve. If things aren’t going well, how do you react? It’s going to be ultimately what determines our season. We can be frustrated, disappointed, we can feel sorry for ourselves, but none of those things really matter. What matters is that we go out and we get the job done, we get excited about the challenge and we rise up to it.”

Ilya Kovalchuk aiming for NHL return after 5 years away

Getty Images
Leave a comment

MOSCOW (AP) Former NHL forward Ilya Kovalchuk says he wants to return to the league this summer and play there for “several more years.”

Kovalchuk tells Russian state sports channel Match TV that if he doesn’t try again to win a Stanley Cup, “I won’t forgive myself for it when I get older.”

Kovalchuk, who won the Olympic gold medal last month, says he’s focused on winning the Kontinental Hockey League with SKA St. Petersburg, “but in the summer I’m going to examine offers” from the NHL.

He adds that he wants to match Russian teammate Pavel Datsyuk as a member of the so-called triple gold club of players who have won the Olympic gold medal, world championship, and Stanley Cup.

Kovalchuk walked out on the New Jersey Devils in 2013 to return to Russia, where he has since won two KHL titles.

The Buzzer: Kane nets four; Preds first to clinch

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Players of the Night:

Evander Kane, San Jose Sharks: It took him 565 NHL games and three teams, but Kane now has his first NHL hat trick. Then he made sure to grab his first four-goal NHL game for the hell of it. Kane has five goals and 10 points in eight games since the trade deadline, the most of any player dealt this year on deadline day.

Mike Hoffman, Ottawa Senators: Hoffman had an assist in regulation and then one-timed his fifth game-winning goal of the season in overtime to help the Senators past the Dallas Stars.

Nashville Predators: For no other reason than they claimed first blood in a 4-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche, becoming the first team this season to clinch a playoff spot.

Highlights of the Night:

Bravo, Johnny:

Kane’s hat trick goal:



Factoids of the Night:


Senators 3, Stars 2 (OT)

Capitals 6, Islanders 3

Predators 4, Avalanche 2

Sharks 7, Flames 4

Ducks 4, Red Wings 2

Wild 4, Golden Knights 2

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Rangers getting a good look at the future, despite playoff disappointment

Getty Images

Silver linings for teams far off the playoff line are few and far between at this time of the year.

But if there is one that can be taken for any team looking at re-tooling or rebuilding for next season, it’s the ability to take a look at the future crop against NHL adversaries.

The New York Rangers are one of these teams. They declared themselves open for business prior to the trade deadline and dealt away some big names, including Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh, for some younger talent.

They’re also facing a challenge with aging goaltender Henrik Lundqvist who, as great as he is, won’t win the battle with Father Time.

Needing to fill holes at several positions, the Rangers have been able to take a good look at a couple of promising prospects, including what may well be their future between the pipes.

New York has played rookie Alexandar Georgiev six times and owns a 3-2-0 record since he played his first NHL game on Feb. 22. Despite picking up the loss, Georgiev allowed just two goals on 40 shots for a .950 save percentage.

He’d give up four in his next start the following night, but since then has amassed three straight wins, including a 37-save performance on Wednesday against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. He’ll be called upon again on Saturday, another test and another chance for evaluation.

The inital analysis is promising. Georgiev is sitting on a very respectable .929 save percentage in his brief time in the NHL and he’s already turning heads around the league.

NHL.com’s Kevin Woodley’s wrote that Georgiev is taking after the likes of Andrei Vasilevskiy, Semyon Varlamov and Sergei Bobrovsky — some pretty good company.

Blueshirt Banter’s Tom Urtz Jr. took a really deep dive in Georgiev, concluding by calling him a “pleasant surprise.”

There’s a lot to like about him, his potential is visible, and the circumstances are set up in his favor for him to be able to prove himself more in an extended setting next season,” Urtz Jr. wrote.

Shifting to the men in the rearguard, Neal Pionk is making the most the big minutes he’s been getting over the past 17 games, and he’s starting to produce.

Pionk is on a three-game point streak with five assists during that span.

Also 22 and also undrafted, Pionk, like Georgiev, is showing real promise on defense.

“He competes hard and he’s got a good skill set,” Vigneault told NYRangers.com on Friday. “He can make that good pass and there’s no doubt that in his college and prior to that, he was considered an offensive defenseman. He’d join the rush and was good on the power play, so there is some upside there with him. We need to continue to work at his game and continue to improve it.”

The Rangers appear to have some budding young talent and an array of players to build around with the likes Pavel Buchnevich, Vladislav Namestnikov and Jimmy Vesey — assuming they sign the latter two who are set to become RFAs at the end of this season.

And perhaps most importantly, the Rangers, who have long held the distinction as a team where old players go to get older, seem to finally be favoring youth over past-their-prime talent.

That’s good news for Rangers fans.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Ducks lose Bieksa for 2-5 weeks


ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Anaheim Ducks defenseman Kevin Bieksa will be out for two to five weeks after surgery to remove scar tissue from his left hand.

Bieksa is having surgery Friday, the Ducks announced.

The 36-year-old Bieksa has eight assists in 59 games this season for Anaheim, which is fighting to get into playoff position with three weeks left in the regular season.

Anaheim recalled defenseman Korbinian Holzer from its AHL affiliate in San Diego before facing the Detroit Red Wings at Honda Center on Friday night.

The Ducks have won five consecutive Pacific Division titles and made five straight postseason appearances, reaching the Western Conference finals last season. But Anaheim (35-24-12) began this weekend out of playoff position and in fourth place in the Pacific.

More AP NHL: http://www.apnews.com/tags/NHLhockey